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Recorded live at Middle Tennessee State University’s Hinton Hall, the release of The Innocence Of Spring (ARC-0736) brings together two veterans of the US jazz scene in saxophonist Don Aliquo and pianist Michael Jefry Stevens. In a live performance of raw improvisational clarity and sensitivity, inspiration from the jazz greats of years gone past is evident. Not just in the modern, bebop, post-bop sound, but in the choice of Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington tracks which enclose seven original compositions.

On saxophone, Aliquo’s playing—“smooth as silk...with an unfailing feel for breath and phrasing" (All About Jazz)—combines delightfully with that of Michael Jefry Stevens, described by Cadence Jazz Magazine as “a sensitive pianist who ekes out droplets of sparkling gems or volumes of rushing waves…" In an era where albums are often carefully constructed in a studio, this is a rare opportunity to hear two master improvisors at work live, complete with clapping, laughing, and cheering from the audience at Hinton Hall. 



From the git-go, this is a kickin' disc full of chops and imagery, all the players masters of their instruments and the full panoply of colorations inherent in each, working carefully to fill the listener's brainpan with pastoral, urban, suburban, intriguingly odd, and depth-imbued scenarios, often all in a single tune, as the opener, New Toes, more than amply demonstrates. However, even the balladic aspects, such as the stunning Chest Frenzy, are, though much restrained, highly evocative, Aliquo and Jenkins prominent, though not one voice is neglected, everything crucial to the pointillisms involved. You'll have to dig back quite a ways to find another song quite like it…even among the deluge of truly great discs issued over the last decade.
Aliquo's extremely supple in the addressal of his axe but always zeroed in on what he's describing, not just re: impressive chops qua chops, and Jenkins is complementary to a very high degree.



Tenor saxist  Don Aliquo teams up with trumpet Clay Jenkins to front a band including Harold Danko/p, Rufus Reid/b and Jim White/dr. The all stars talents are used well here, creating a band that gives homage to the post bop sounds of ESP era Miles Davis with more intricacy and intellect. There’s some nice bopping  brush work along with a hip bass line for Aliquo’s horn on “ Senor Silt” and a slinky blues is a relaxed setting for the bluesy “Another Cold Front.” Lines are traded back and forth on “New Ties” and the band shows assertiveness on the driving “Glory” while the lovely “The Grand Entrance” shows the two horns at their most lyrical. Aliquo does some serious squawking and gets into some arm wrestling with White on “The Bandit” and through it all Reid is the embodiment of symbiotic support, laying down irresistible yet flexible grooves throughout. Impressive and professional modern art.



If anyone doubts the timelessness of classic jazz, one listen to saxophonist Don Aliquo and pianist Beegie Adair’s Too Marvelous for Words will convince them otherwise. “We were visualizing vintage, mid-Fifties, Be-Bop feel” states Beegie – and they fully captured it. Sometimes that intent can create a somewhat nostalgic feel, losing the immediacy that is at the core of all great jazz. In the hands of these two masters, quite the opposite occurred. The listener is instead transported into the mindset of that spectacular era, complete with all of the excitement, urgency, and joy of adventurous discovery that were its hallmarks.

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Don Aliquo: Jazz Folk
Nashville-based tenor saxophonist Don Aliquo plays with a dextrous technique and a breathy, almost muffled tone. He leads a cohesive quintet on this disc, dovetailing especially well with the bright oscillations of trumpeter Clay Jenkins. Veteran bassist Rufus Reid adds expert support, playing alongside Jim White’s bustling drum work and Dana Landry’s energetic piano. In an upbeat set loaded with memorable themes, the dual-phased “Spiral Staircase” and a lovely version of Jule Styne’s ballad “Never Never Land” are standouts.



Next to the quintessential piano trio, the most favored unit in Modern Jazz has to be the proverbial reed with rhythm section— exactly the instrumentation on (3). This fifth issue under saxman Don Aliquo’s leadership finds him fronting a trio with at least two names Cadence readers will have no problem identifying: pianist McNeely and bass master Reid. Newcomer Calvaire, appearing
in the drum chair, more than holds his own and has no problem fitting into this swinging machine. The leader is originally from Pittsburgh and now holds a teaching position around the Nashville area. His full-throated tenor exhibits hints of both Joe Henderson and late period Stan Getz. Aliquo contributed seven of his originals to the set list; McNeely wrote the meaty “Hiatus,” replete with
a mighty upright solo from Reid, who penned the lovely ballad, “Caress The Thought.” There are two clarinet outings in “Adagio For Kim” and the fleet “Redemption Blues,” the leader’s woody lic- orice stick getting high marks from this listener who also enjoyed the quirky original, “Lower Burrellian Bicycle Loop.” From the jaunty kickoff “Dawson Street Strut” to the hard-driving “February Regrets,” which wraps up this no-frills disc, this release rates high on the list .

234|cadence |oct-nov-dec 2011

Larry Hollis



Don Aliquo, “Sun & Shield” (Artists Recording Collective) Recently, I discovered saxophonist and clarinetist Don Aliquo, yet another example of a wonderful player who exists under the radar. A second-generation jazz musician, he hails from Pittsburgh. After attending Berklee College of Music and subsequently getting his master’s degree from Duquesne University, he performed for a number of years with various artists, including legendary Pittsburgh drummer Roger Humphries, and then landed at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. Aliquo now serves as the school’s director of jazz studies.
Admittedly, what drew me to Aliquo’s latest release, “Sun & Shield,” was not him but rather his rhythm section — each musician is wonderful and well-respected. Normally, I’m suspect of a lesser-known artist who releases a recording that, for better or worse, seems to be anchored, if not “buoyed” by much more familiar and well-respected artists. This happens to some extent with younger players who are trying to get their name out there. It is, in some ways, jazz’s equivalent of baseball’s trading deadline: You pay additional dollars to employ hired guns for the remainder of a season, and then they become free agents.
If you’re Aliquo, why not have pianist Jim McNeely, one of our great keyboardists, bassist Rufus Reid, now flourishing as a leader after appearing on hundreds of recordings in support of people such as Stan Getz and Kenny Barron, and Obed Calvaire, a younger drummer making a solid name for himself as a member of the Clayton Brothers Quintet and other solid ensembles, join you for a session?
This is simply not the case here; Aliquo can and does play. He’s no newbie or neophyte — that’s for sure. He has got a big, deep, developed sound. On the saxophone, he is steeped in a tradition that incorporates everyone from Joe Henderson to John Coltrane to George Coleman and, to a lesser extent, another Pittsburgh native, the soulful and original “Mr. T” — Stanley Turrentine. Further, Aliquo displays a great deal of technical capability on both the tenor saxophone and the clarinet. Employing either, he demonstrates a wide range of emotions that take you from the sensitive on “Adagio For Kim” to the full-bore energy of the title track, both original compositions. All but three of the 10 cuts on “Sun & Shield” are Aliquo originals, the exceptions being Reid’s somewhat introspective “Caress The Thought,” McNeely’s “Hiatus,” a bouncy, angular escapade, and Jonathan Wires’ “Once,” a kind of lilting, pensive piece.
As one might imagine, the McNeely-Reid-Calvaire rhythm section is quite up to the task throughout this set, which means, as an added bonus, there are naturally many passages when Aliquo lays out. The result is “Sun & Shield” doubles somewhat as an ace trio session as well as an engaging quartet endeavor.
Tribune columnist Jon Poses also serves as the executive director of the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series. He can be reached via email at jazznbsbl@socket.net.